§ Mr. Buckingham
Sir, in rising to call the attention of the House to the Motion of which I have given notice, for a Select Committee to inquire into the causes of the great increase of habitual Drunkenness among the labouring classes of this kingdom, and to devise legislative measures to prevent its further spread, I am so fully sensible of the difficulty of the task, that nothing but a strong conviction of its public importance would have induced me to undertake it. In the expositions which it will be my painful duty to make, I can scarcely fail to encounter the hostility of those who profit largely by the demoralization of which they are both the cause and the support. In suggesting the remedies which I shall venture to propose, I foresee the opposition of a large 91 class of persons interested in maintaining the existing state of things in all its force; while from those who have no pecuniary interests involved in the inquiry, but who contend, conscientiously, perhaps, that all legislation on such a subject is mischievous, and that the evil should be left to work its own cure, I shall have to endure the imputation of cant and puritanism, in affecting a higher regard for morality than others, of officious meddling, and oppressive interference with the rights of property, and the enjoyments of the labouring classes. For all this I am prepared; and yet, in the face of all this, I shall firmly persevere in my original intention. Not that I am indifferent either to the rights of property, or to the enjoyments of my fellow-men—and the humbler their class, the more sacredly should their rights and enjoyments be guarded from legislative suppression; but, after years of mature deliberation—after some reading, much reflection, and still more practical experience, grounded on extensive personal observation of the present condition of society in England, Scotland, and Ireland, which, within the last five years, has brought me into close intercourse with many thousands of all ranks and classes—my conviction is as strong as it is sincere, that, of all the single evils that afflict our common country, the increased and increasing prevalence of drunkenness, among the labouring classes, including men, women, and children, is the greatest; that it is not only an evil of the greatest magnitude in itself, but that it is the source of a long and melancholy catalogue of other evils springing directly from its impure fountain; and as its daily operation is to sap the very foundations of social happiness and domestic enjoyment, he who may be instrumental in arresting its fatal progress, will be conferring an in, estimable benefit on his country, and rendering a valuable service to mankind. Under this conviction, I propose, Sir, with the indulgence of the House, to direct its attention to some few of the causes which appear to me to have been most powerfully operative in extending the increase of drunkenness, and to some few of the baneful effects winch it produces, not merely on its immediate victims, but on the best interests of society at large. I shall, then, I hope, be able to adduce sufficient reasons to show, that legislative interference is imperatively demanded, to check the evil; that it is justified by precedent and analogy, and that it will produce the end de- 92 sired. After this, I will submit to the House the steps which appear to me most likely to operate as immediate checks, as well as others more appropriate to be considered as ulterior remedies for an evil which it is desirable first to arrest in its present progress; and then, if possible, to root it out and extirpate entirely. Of the fact of the increase of drunkenness among the labouring classes of the country, I think there will be no doubt. But if there should, a reference to the reports of the police cases, published in any town of the United Kingdom will be more than sufficient to remove such doubts; and if to this be added the evidence furnished by the records of our criminal courts of session or assize, and by the coroner's inquests, hospital returns, and other public documents, accessible to all,—the most irresistible proof will be produced to show, that intemperance, like a mighty and destroying flood, is fast overwhelming the land. I content myself with two short extracts of evidence on this subject from very different quarters, which I have selected from a mass of others, because they are the shortest and the most recent; not written to serve any special purpose, and above all question as to their authenticity. The first is from the last official Report of the Middlesex Lunatic Asylum, at Hanwell, as published in the Times of the present month. It is as follows:—GIN-DRINKING.—The seventy-six deaths which have occurred in the year have been, with the exception of those who have died from advanced age, principally caused by the disease of the brain, of the lungs, and the complaints brought on by those deadly potions of ardent spirits in which the lower classes seem more than ever to indulge. In a very great number of the recent cases, both amongst men and women, the insanity is caused entirely by spirit drinking. This may, in some measure, be attributed to the young not being taught to consider the practice disgraceful, and to their being tempted, by the gorgeous splendour of the present gin-mansions, to begin a habit which they never would have commenced had they been obliged to steal, fearful of being observed, into the obscurity of the former dram-shops.The second document to which I beg to draw the special attention of the House, is one of the most appalling, perhaps, that the history of intemperance has ever produced. It is a report of the number of men, women, and children, who entered, for the purpose of drinking ardent spirits, fourteen of the principal gin-shops, in Lon- 93 don and its suburbs—of which there are two in Whitechapel—three at Mile End—one in East Smithfield—one in the Boroughs—one in Old Street Road—two in Holborn—one in Bloomsbury—and three in Westminster. From these tabular statements I make only the following selections. At the principal gin-shop, in Holborn, there entered on the Monday, 2,880 men, 1,855 women, and 289 children; making a total of 5,024 human beings in one single day; and, in the whole week, 16,988 persons had drunk of the poisonous draught at one single house. At the principal gin-shop, in Whitechapel, this had even been exceeded; for there had entered at this house on the Monday, no less than 3,146 men, 2,186 women, and 686 children; making a total of 6,021 in a single day; and in the course of the week, the numbers amounted to 17,603. The grand total for one week only in the fourteen houses selected, the names of which I have seen, and the localities of which I have myself inspected, amount to no less a number than 269,438, divided in the following proportions—namely, 142,453 men, 108,593 women, and 18,391 children—the women and children united, nearly equalling the men; and surpassing them in the grossness and depravity of their demeanour! Alas! Sir, is it England of which we are speaking—the land of the lovely and the brave—the seat of the sciences and the arts—the school of morality and religion? or are those attributes of excellence ascribed to us in mockery, in order to heighten our sense of sorrow and of shame? Yes! in a country second to none in wealth—in intelligence—in power—and I will add, too, in general purity of conduct and character—there yet remains this deadly plague-spot, which I call upon the members of this House to assist, to the utmost of their abilities, in endeavouring to wipe away. If this almost inconceivable amount of degradation is produced by fourteen houses only in this metropolis, what must be the mass of vice and immorality engendered by the 14,000 others, which rear their decorated fronts in every street and avenue, which ever way we turn,—though, like the whited sepulchres of old, they are—without, all gorgeousness and splendour—within, all rottenness and death;—and if the waste, disease, and crime, produced by intoxication in London alone, be thus enormous, what must be the aggregate amount of each in all the other towns and districts of England! The sum is so fearful that I shrink 94 appalled from its bare contemplation. If we turn to Scotland, the prospect is quite as discouraging. From a letter, dated Edinburgh, April, 1834, written by an eminent physician of that city, Dr. Greville, I extract only the following passage:—I have been this day in the City Chambers, and have ascertained from the official records, that in the Royalty (or city), there were issued for the years 1833–4, no less than 736 licences. The Royalty contains 55,232 souls, and 11,046 families; this is, therefore, a licence to every fifteenth family. The whole population of Edinburgh and its suburbs, is about 166,000; but beyond the Royalty, the licences are mixed up with those of the county, and it is not so easy to obtain a distinct account of them. This, however, is well known, that three years ago there were only 1,700 licences in the whole of this district; so that the increase in that short space of time is enormous.If we ask whether Ireland is affected with this deadly plague as well as Scotland and England, the answer must unfortunately be in the affirmative. In Dublin, and in Cork, the increased consumption of ardent spirits, and the consequent increase of disease and crime is undeniable, and testimonies might be multiplied on this subject to any required extent. But to take the north of Ireland, rather than the south, for an example—as the north is universally admitted to be in a higher state of order, and peace and comfort, than the south, I quote a single passage from a report drawn up by the rev. John Edgar, Divinity Professor in the Royal College of Belfast, dated in January of the present year, in which he says:—The demand for spirituous liquors is so universal, that spirit shops in the town of Ulster average sixteen, eighteen, and even thirty, to one baker's shop; and in some villages every shop is a spirit shop. In one town, containing only 800 houses, there are no less than eighty-eight spirit shops. The fruit of all this exhibits itself everywhere in the destruction of property, and peace, and health, and life, and happiness; in the increase of crime, the injury of the best interests of individuals, of families, and of the community at large.Subsequently to the date of this report, I have received a letter from Mr. John Finch, of Liverpool, a gentleman well known for his intimate acquaintance with the lower orders of the people generally, from his having made their condition the subject of personal investigation and continued care. He says:—
I have just returned from a six weeks' jour- 95 ney in Ireland, having visited all the principal sea-ports in that island, from the Giant's Causeway to Bantry and Wexford, and certainly the condition of the great mass of the people in that country is as miserable as it is possible; they are filthy, ragged, famished, houseless, herding with pigs, and sleeping on dung-hills, without regular employment, and working for sixpence, and even fourpence and fivepence per day. No doubt this wretchedness is in part owing to absenteeism, want of leases, high rents, and in some trifling degree to tithes; but I feel satisfied that drunkenness and whiskey-drinking are a greater curse than all these put together. Do you ask for proof? The finest mansions, parks, and farms in Ireland, belong to distillers and brewers; the largest manufactories are distilleries and breweries, and at least one out of every four or five shops in Ireland, is a dram or beer-shop: in one street in Belfast, I counted seven whiskey-shops together, on one side of the street. One of the Poor Law Commissioners told me at Waterford, that it had just been ascertained that 50,000l. worth of whiskey and other intoxicating liquors were sold at Clonmel in the retail shops last year, with a population of about 15,000; and it was believed that, in Waterford, with a population of about 30,000, nearly 100,000l. worth was sold in the same time. It is true these are market-towns of great resort, and therefore it is not to be supposed that it was all drunk by residents. Can we wonder, then, that the Irish people are so poor? I believe nothing can be done for their relief, unless means be first adopted to check this dreadful evil.Among many of the baneful effects produced by this extensive spread of intemperance, the following are enumerated by Mr. Thomas Wallace, in his "Essay on the Manufactures of Ireland, in 1798."A striking example of the mischiefs which may be done by a manufacture tending to deprave the morals of the people, has been exhibited for several years back in the distilleries of this kingdom. This manufacture, by producing ardent spirits in large quantities, and at a cheap rate, has emasculated the minds, and enervated the bodies of the poor of Ireland. It has spread its poison throughout every quarter of the country; it has rendered poverty more miserable, and rendered vice of all kinds more prevalent, and more ferocious. Of manufactures it has been the bane. It has disinclined and disabled the workman to perform his work with either accuracy or despatch; it has made him combine against his employer, to extort the means of dissipation, and it has made him more idle to spend them. In a word, it has filled our streets with beggary, riot, and vice—has raised the prices, and spoiled the quality of our goods, and has made the fertility of our island, instead of a blessing, a curse.96 In the central parts of England, in the great manufacturing towns of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and their surrounding districts, the evil is widely extending in every direction. In Manchester and the surrounding towns of Bolton, Stockport, Oldham, and others, the increase of spirit shops and spirit drinkers is greater, perhaps, than in any part of England. Take the following testimony as to the former, from the excellent work of Dr. Kay, an eminent physician of that town, "On the condition of the Working Classes:"—Some idea (he says) may be formed of the influence of these establishments, the ginshops, on the health and morals of the people, from the following statement, for which I am indebted to Mr. Bradley, the boroughreeve of Manchester. He observed the number of persons entering a single gin-shop in five minutes, during eight successive Saturday evenings, and at various periods, from seven o'clock till ten. The average result was 112 men, and 163 women, or 275 in forty minutes, which is equal to 412 per hour.Mr. Robert Jowitt, a most respectable merchant and manufacturer of Leeds, states, that, according to the official returns, there were no less than 297 hotels, inns, and taverns, licensed in that borough alone; besides 289 beer-shops; making, in the whole, 586 houses furnishing intoxicating drinks, in which, calculating the receipts of the former as on the average of 17l., and of the latter on the average of 3l. per week only, there would be expended the sum of 307,632l. per annum; and by far the largest proportion of this paid by the working people. In the Sheffield Iris, of the 17th of May, but a few weeks ago, is the following paragraph, which, though short, speaks volumes, as to the fearful increase of intemperance in the great district of which it is the centre. The paragraph is most appropriately headed, and is as follows:—THE INTOXICATING MARCH TO DEATH.—It is a painful, but at the same time a most melancholy fact, that Mr. Badger, the coroner of this district, has, within the short space of ten days, had occasion to hold inquests on thirteen persons who have come to their deaths by accidents solely arising from indulging in the baneful vice of drunkenness.Sir, it would be easy to multiply evidence of this description to any extent required. But I refrain from adducing any more. Here, in the immediate precincts of the seat of Legislation, under the venerable shadow of Westminster Abbey, 97 as well as in other parts of this great metropolis, in Holborn, in Seven Dials, in Saffron-hill, on the north; in Southwark, and St. George's Fields, in the south; in Whitechapel, and Mile End, in the east; in the Strand, in Piccadilly, and in Oxford-street, in the west; as well as Smithfield, Barbican, and Shoreditch, in the centre;—every where, in every direction, in the heart, and around the suburbs of this mighty city, the demon of intoxication seems to sweep all before him with his fiery flood, while, in the remotest villages and hamlets of the country, as well as in the manufacturing towns, the evil has increased, is increasing, and cries with a loud voice from every quarter for redress. From the melancholy facts of the case, I pass, for a moment, to consider what appear to me to have been among the causes of this increased drunkenness among the humbler classes. The first of these I take to be the early example of their superiors in the higher classes of society, among whom, in periods not very remote, drinking to excess was so far from being regarded as a vice, that it was often boasted of as a sort of prowess, worthy of distinction and honour—when no entertainment was considered to be hospitably concluded, without the intoxication of the majority of those who partook of it—when ladies were obliged to quit the dinner table to prevent their being shocked by the excesses of the gentlemen who remained; and when the liberality of the host was tested by the number of the guests he had made drunk at his cost. Happily, for the better educated classes of society, this state of things, winch many hon. Members whom I now address are old enough, no doubt, to remember, has passed away from them. But drunken servants began at length to imitate drunken masters; and intoxication being regarded as a proof of gentility and spirit, and a sign of property or credit in the drinker, the vice soon spread lower and lower in the ranks of society; just as any other bad habit, whether of dress or manners, after having been discarded by the upper ranks, with whom it first originated, descends progressively to their inferiors. Another cause has been, undoubtedly, the severe pressure of taxation, and the equally severe pressure of that excessive labour, by which alone a poor man could hope to find subsistence. These two causes operating conjointly, rendered it almost impossible for labouring men to provide themselves with homes of comfort, and 98 therefore the blazing fire and easy chair of the tap-room at the public-house, possessed a more powerful attraction for them than an empty hearth, a damp floor, and a cold and comfortless lodging. They could not enter into this comfortable retreat without drinking something; the first glass begat only a thirst for the second; smoking was added by the landlord, to increase still more the thirst which he profited by quenching; and associates in all vicious habits commending each other, for the purpose of quieting the reproaches of conscience, the moderate drinker looked indulgently on the drunkard, till he became tainted with the destructive habit himself. The large size of the towns, increasing in every direction, making the old rural sports of England more and more difficult of access, and the lengthened hours of labour affording less time for healthful recreation, and forcing men to those more quickly excited pleasures of intoxication, were, no doubt, each auxiliaries to the causes I have described in towns; while the departure from the old and wholesome custom of farmers entertaining their labouring men beneath their own roofs, produced the same result of driving them to pass their evenings at public-houses in the country. Another cause may perhaps be found in the sanction given to the sale of spirits by a Government licence, which took away from the traffic, the disrepute which would, no doubt, otherwise have attached to it, if not so authorized. The Government deriving a large revenue from this source, again looked favourably even on the excesses which itself had in some measure created; and the large sums which flowed annually into the Exchequer, by the increased consumption of ardent spirits, made them encourage rather than repress the disposition in the people to swell the Treasury through this productive channel. The duties were, therefore, continually augmented, until they reached their maximum. This augmentation led to smuggling: and as the tax which the smuggler evaded was regarded as a hindrance to the enjoyment of the people, public sympathy ran rather with the violators than with the observers of the law. The smuggler became everywhere a welcome visitor. The rich and the middle classes, as well as the poor, delighted in cheating the Government by purchasing a contraband commodity. The very risk and secrecy of the transaction gave additional zest to its fruits. Spirit drinking, accordingly, increased extensively; 99 and while legal distilleries were encouraged for the aid they gave to the Treasury, illicit distillation, and unlawful importation, was encouraged by high duties; and the sellers of each left no exertion untried to increase the taste for a beverage, the sale of which brought them such large profits, and which, in its seductive nature, was calculated, if it could be but once implanted, to go on creating a vitiated appetite, which would grow by what it fed on, and know no bounds to its continued augmentation, till it destroyed its victim by his own excess. To meet the increased demand engendered by this increased dissipation, new houses of entertainment sprung up in every direction, in the shape of winevaults and gin-shops, in the large sea-ports and manufacturing districts, and taverns, and ale-houses, in the agricultural provinces. The Government, too, instead of checking the evil, added only fresh fuel to the already too rapidly devouring flame; and the reduction of the duty of ardent spirits on the one hand, and the increased facilities given to the sale of beer on the other, spread a flood of desolation over the whole surface of the country, which, departing from the mighty heart of the metropolis, was circulated in all the arteries and veins to the utmost extremities of the frame; and has been thence rolled back again in a torrent of such wide-spreading devastation, that it has scarcely left a single spot uninundated by its overwhelming waves. Let us seriously ask ourselves what have been the effects of all this. Alas! Sir, the answer is indeed a melancholy one. Deterioration of the public health, to such a degree, that our hospitals and asylums are filled with the victims of intemperance. Increase of pauperism in every parish, so that the poor rates bid fair to exceed the rental of the land. Destruction of public morals, by the brutalization of the old, and the prostitution of the young—the extinction of all honest pride of independence in the men, and the annihilation of all sense of decency in the women—the neglect of wives by their husbands, of children by their parents—and the breaking in sunder all those soft and endearing ties which heretofore were recognised as sacred among the humblest classes in society. These are but the outlines of this great chart of misery and degradation which drunkenness has traced out for our survey: the details are too full of sickening horror to be painted by any pen, or uttered by any tongue: they must be seen to be credited, 100 and witnessed before they can he felt in all their force. As a matter of public economy—the lowest and the narrowest light in which it can be viewed—let a calculation be made of the national cost of all this evil, and it will be seen, that if the revenue derived from it were ten times its present amount, it would be far outbalanced by the tremendous loss which it inflicts on the nation. It is estimated, on carefully collected data, that not less than fifty millions sterling is expended in a single year, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, in spirits, wine, beer, and other intoxicating and fermented drinks; not a single drop of which is necessary, either for the health or strengths of man, but every glass of which is, in its degree, absolutely prejudicial to the consumer. Here, then, are fifty millions of capital wasted—a sum equal to the revenue of the whole kingdom, as much thrown away as if it were sunk in the depths of the Atlantic. Nay, worse them that; for then it would be merely lost, and no more; but, from its being expended in intoxicating drinks, it gives rise to a long train of expenses besides. Of these, the hospitals and lunatic asylums may be put down at two millions; the county jails and town prisons, river hulks, and convict transports, with all the machinery of police and criminal jurisdiction, whether military or civil (for both are used) may be reckoned at five millions more; and the absolute destruction of property, in the burning of houses and their contents, the shipwreck of vessels, and the spoiling, and rendering useless, goods of various kinds, destroyed by neglect—may be estimated at at least three millions more. Let us add to this, the immense loss of time and productive labour, which will equal the sixty millions already enumerated. In a calculation that was made of the loss of wages—and consequently of productive labour worth those wages in amount; sustained by the members of the Trades' Unions, when they devoted a single day only to a procession through London, it was estimated, that the loss in wages by the whole number of those who either formed part of that procession, or lost their day by the suspension of business, in all the parts through which they passed, and the absence from their homes of those who accompanied it, was, at the least, 50,000l. Now, from the great prevalence of the habit of congregating to drink in parties on the Sunday, the Monday, and sometimes even on the Tuesday in each week, it may be safely calculated, 101 that there is one such day as this lost in every town in the kingdom every week in the year. Supposing London alone, then, with its 1,500,000 inhabitants, to lose 50,000l. by the very partial suspension of its trade and productive labour in one week, fifty-two such weekly losses would exceed two millions and a-half per annum; and reckoning London as one-twentieth part of the whole kingdom, this would be forty-five millions for the whole. It may be, therefore, asserted, without fear of contradiction, that the aggregate expenses entailed, and losses sustained, by the pernicious habits of drinking, exceed 100 millions annually; that, in a mere pecuniary and economical sense, it is the greatest blight that ever cursed our country; and, like the canker worm, it is eating out its very vitals. There is another consideration connected with the economical part of the question, which ought not to be overlooked. Among the various public questions, which deeply engage the minds of all classes, there is not one, perhaps, of more general interest than that of the importance of increasing the quantity, and lessening the price of food to the labouring classes. Let us see for a moment, how this increased use of ardent spirits and intoxicating drink operates in that particular. The quantity of British made spirits (quite exclusive of foreign importations) has greatly exceeded twenty millions of gallons on the average of several years past, and now exceeds twenty-seven millions, having increased more than one-third within a very short space of time. This increased consumption of spirits I remember to have heard cited on one occasion by the right hon. the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Spring Rice), as a proof of the increased prosperity of Ireland, so exclusively is the Treasury idea of prosperity confined to the proof of money coming into the Exchequer, though that may be caused by the very impoverishment and misery of the people. But let us see how this increased consumption of ardent spirits decreases the supply of human food. It requires one bushel of grain to make two gallons of spirits; so that taking the legally distilled spirits made at home at twenty-seven millions of gallons, and the illegally-distilled spirits at half that quantity,—and in Scotland and Ireland it is much more,—these forty millions of distilled spirits would consume twenty millions of bushels of grain in a year. Here, then, is not merely a waste and destruction of that very food 102 of which the labouring classes of England have not enough, and which they are demanding to be admitted from foreign countries, duty free; but it is a conversion of one of the best gifts of Providence—a wholesome and nutritious article of sustenance—into a fiery flood of disease, of crime, and of physical and mental destruction. We hang by the hands of the common executioner the ignorant rick-burner, who destroys the hay or straw laid up for the winter food of cattle; while we encourage and enrich the distiller and the vender of that far more destructive fire, which consumes twenty millions of bushels of the best food of man, which spreads its exterminating lava over the whole surface of society, which kills the body—which destroys the soul—and leaves no one redeeming or even palliating trace behind it, That the use of these drinks is not, in the slightest degree, necessary to health or strength, may be proved by the habits and condition of the people in other lands, and by the testimonies of personal experience and professional eminence in our own. In Turkey, in Persia, in Bokhara and Samarcand, which, though Mahomedan countries, have snow and ice during a large part of the year, and a climate more severe in many parts, during the winter, even than our own, the people use no stronger drinks than water, milk, and sherbet (a kind of pleasant lemonade) without the least admixture of fermented or spirituous ingredients; and, in health, strength, and beauty, they rank the first among the nations of the world. The pehlevans or athletæ, of Persia, as well as the wrestlers and quoitplayers of Upper Hindoostan, are among the most muscular and powerful men that I have ever seen,—before whom the strongest European would quail; and these drink nothing stronger than water. In my own journies—during one of which I rode upwards of 800 miles on horseback, in ten successive days, or more than eighty miles a-day, in Asia Minor, and Mesopotamia, with the thermometer at the burning heat of 125 degrees in some parts of the journey, and below the freezing point in others, I drank only water, and still continue that pure and wholesome beverage, in the enjoyment of a health and strength, and capacity to sustain fatigue, such as, if my beverage were either beer, or wine, or spirits, I could not possibly enjoy. Nor am I a singular instance; for I have the pleasure to know many, who, having made the same experiment, and finding its bene- 103 fit, have had the courage and the firmness to secure its perpetuation, amidst the scoffs and sarcasms of the world. On this subject, however, let me cite the following testimony, signed by no less a number than 589 medical men of the first eminence, in the principal towns of this kingdom:—We, the undersigned, do hereby declare that, in our opinion, ardent spirits cannot be regarded as a necessary, suitable, or nourishing article of diet; that they have not the property of preventing the accession of any complaints, but may be considered as the principal source of numerous and formidable diseases, and the principal cause of the poverty, crime, and misery which abound in this country; and that the entire disuse of them, except under medical direction, would materially tend to improve the health, amend the morals, and augment the comfort of the community.Let me add to this, the individual opinions of the following eminent members of the medical profession, in London, Edinburgh, and Dublin.Sir Astley Cooper, Bart., Principal Surgeon to the King, says,—"No person has a greater hostility to dram drinking than myself, insomuch that I never suffer any ardent spirits in my house, thinking them evil spirits; and if the poor could witness the white livers, the dropsies, the shattered nervous systems which I have seen, as the consequences of drinking, they would be aware that spirits and poisons were synonymous terms.William Harty, Physician to the Prison of Dublin, says,—"Being thoroughly convinced, by long and extensive observation amongst the poor and middling classes, that there does not exist a more productive cause of disease, and consequent poverty and wretchedness, than the habitual use of ardent spirits, I cannot, therefore, hesitate to recommend the entire disuse of such a poison, rather than incur the risks necessarily connected with its most moderate use.Robert Christison, Professor of Materia Medica in the University of Edinburgh, says,—"The useful purposes to be served by spirituous liquors are so trifling, contrasted with the immense magnitude and variety of the evils resulting from their habitual abuse by the working classes of this country, that their entire abandonment as an article of diet is earnestly to be desired. According to my experience in the infirmary of this city, the effects of the abuse of ardent spirits in impairing health, and adding to the general mortality, are much increased in Edinburgh since the late changes in the Excise Laws, and the subsequent cheapness of whiskey.Edward Turner, Professor of Chemistry in the London University, says,—"It is my firm conviction, that ardent spirits are not a nourishing article of diet; that in this climate they 104 may be entirely disused, except as a medicine, with advantage to health and strength; and that their habitual use tends to undermine the constitution, enfeeble the mind, and degrade the character. They are one of the principal causes of disease, poverty, and vice.I cannot forbear adding to this, the fact of two experiments having been recently tried, one among the anchor-smiths in one of the King's dockyards, and another among the furnace men, or smelters of tin ore, in Cornwall. As, in each of these occupations, the heat of the fires is excessive, and the labour great, it had been always hitherto considered necessary to grant an unlimited supply of beer to the persons engaged in it. But a party of each were prevailed upon, for a sum of money divided among them, to try the experiment of working a gang of water-drinkers against one of beer-drinkers, each equal in number and average strength; and the result of both the experiments went to prove that the water-drinkers could sustain the greatest degree of heat and labour with the least exhaustion or inconvenience. This is the case in England. I will add only a short paragraph from the valuable testimony of a well-known authority, Henry Marshall, Esq., Deputy Inspector-General of Army Hospitals. In a valuable paper on the impolicy of issuing ardent spirits to the European Troops in India, he says:—The first error, with respect to the use of ardent spirits which I mean to oppose, is, that they contribute to enable men to undergo great fatigue. This is, I believe, a very common error. Spirits never add permanent strength to any person. In all climates, the temperate livers are the fittest to endure fatigue. Dr. Jackson travelled 118 miles in Jamaica in four days, and carried baggage equal in weight to the common knapsack of a soldier. He says; "In the journey which I have just now mentioned, I probably owe my escape from sickness to temperance and spare diet. I breakfasted on tea about ten in the morning, and made a meal of bread and sallad after I had taken up my lodging for the night. If I had occasion to drink through the day, water or lemonade was my beverage." He concludes his observations on this topic, by stating,—"I have introduced my own experience on the present occasion, because it enables me to speak from conviction, that an English soldier may be rendered capable of going through the severest military service in the West Indies, and that temperance will he one of the best means of enabling him to perform his duty with safety and effect." Personal experience has taught me, that the use of ardent spirits is not necessary to enable a European to undergo the fatigue of marching in a climate whose 105 mean temperature is between 73° and 80°, as I have often marched on foot, and been employed in the operations of the field, with troops, in such a climate, without any other beverage than water and coffee. So far from being calculated to assist the human body in enduring fatigue, I have always found that the strongest liquors were the most enervating, and this in whatever quantity they were consumed; for the daily use of spirits is an evil habit, which retains its pernicious character through all its gradations; indulged in at all, it can produce nothing better than a more diluted or mitigated degree of mischief.Let the following short testimonies of three eminent physicians,—Dr. Rush, in America; Dr. Trotter, Physician to the Fleet, and one of the most experienced medical men ever possessed by the navy of England; and Dr. Paris, a gentleman of extensive practice in London, be added; and the evidence on this branch of the subject will be complete.Dr. Rush says,—"Since the introduction of spirituous liquors into such general use, physicians have remarked, that a number of diseases have appeared amongst us, and have described many new symptoms as common to all diseases." Dr. Trotter says,—"Amidst all the evils of human life, no cause of disease has so wide a range, or so large a share, as the use of spirits."—"Spirituous liquors (he adds) destroy more lives than the sword; war has its intervals of destruction, but spirits operate at all times and seasons upon human life." And Dr. Paris says,—that "The art of extracting alcoholic liquors by distillation must be regarded as the greatest crime inflicted on human nature.Notwithstanding this, with an infatuation most blind and besotted, and too much, I regret to say, fostered and encouraged by those of their superiors who talk of the "comfort and refreshment" which these deadly poisons afford to the labouring classes, we see the town and country population, with sickly countenances—sunken eyes—pallid cheeks—livid lips—enfeebled knees—palsied heads and tremulous hands—absolutely diminishing in stature, and becoming uglier in feature—begetting a progeny which, besides partaking of the diseased constitution of their parents, are initiated into the use of the insidious poison in their very infancy by the parents themselves, and are growing up more feeble in bodily strength, more weak in mental power, and more vicious and degraded in moral conduct, than even their parents themselves, to whom they are inferior in physical stamina, but whom they exceed in self-abandonment and dissi- 106 pation. There are some, however, who, though they admit the injurious effects produced by the general habit of intemperance, deny that the habit itself has increased; and for their conviction, I venture to adduce the following remarkable facts, taken from a very valuable little work, published only four years ago, entitled, "An Inquiry into the Influence of the Excessive use of Spirituous Liquors in producing Crime, Disease, and Poverty in Ireland;" compiled from the most authentic and official documents, and exhibiting most remarkable results. On the subject of the increased prevalence of intemperance at present, as compared with former periods, the writer says:But there is in the collection of London Bills of Mortality, an item which enables us to judge, with some degree of correctness, of the alteration which had taken place in the habits of the population of the metropolis. The item to which we allude is that of 'deaths by excessive drinking.' Examining the London Bills of Mortality we find, that, with one exception, there is no record of death by excessive drinking until the year 1686; nor did the average exceed one annually for thirty years after that date. But we find that when, by legislative encouragement to distillation for home use, spirits became the general beverage, deaths by excessive drinking so rapidly increased, that their average, for the thirty years between 1721 and 1750, exceeded thirty-three annually; that is, that there were nearly as many deaths from intoxication in one year when spirits were used, as there were in the entire thirty years, between 1686 and 1715, when ale was the chief drink of the citizens.The Dublin Bills of Mortality show, that the effect in that City was the same. In twenty years, between 1726 and 1745, there were but three deaths by excessive drinking recorded; ale being, during that time, the principal drink of the labouring classes; but when the encouragement to distillation for home use rendered spirits the more general drink,—that is, between the years 1746 and 1757,—there died from intoxication (on an average) in each year, more than double the number that had died in the entire of the preceding twenty years.Nor is the effect of prohibitions to distillation, in producing sobriety, less remarkable. In the three years prior to the restriction on distillation in England, in 1751, the annual average of deaths by excessive drinking, in London, was twenty-one; in the three years after that partial restriction, the deaths averaged only twelve; but, in the three years between 1757 and 1760, when distillation was totally prohibited, the annual average of deaths was but three.107 Let this be compared with the fact of thirteen deaths in ten days, from excessive drinking, as reported by the coroner, in the district of Sheffield alone, and the contrast is frightful. To show that in England, up to the latest date, the same effects are produced by the same causes, let me add the following short but convincing testimony from the most authentic source:—Mr. Poynder the Sub-sheriff of London, states, that he has been so long in the habit of hearing criminals refer all their misery to the habit of dram-drinking, that he has latterly ceased to ask them the causes or their ruin; nearly all the convicts for murder with whom he had conversed, had acknowledged that they were under the influence of spirits at the time they committed the acts for which they were about to suffer. Many had assured him, that they found it necessary, before they could commit crimes of particular atrocity, to have recourse to dram-drinking as a stimulus to fortify their minds to encounter any risk, and to proceed to all lengths; and he mentions the cases of several atrocious offenders, whose depravity was by themselves attributed to, and was, on investigation, found, to have originated in, such habits of intoxication.Sir, I ask the House, as a body of intelligent English Gentlemen, as husbands and fathers, as legislators and guardians of the public weal, ought such a state of things as this to continue? I ask, whether the picture I have drawn is not literally and painfully true? And I equally ask, whether the time is not fully come, to demand, that we should apply a remedy? It will be said, perhaps, by some, though I think there will be few, that the evil is beyond the province of legislation, and can only be met by prospective measures of education, moral training, religious instruction, and other aids of this description. Sir, I am far from undervaluing these powerful and benign agencies in human improvement. But the evil requires present checks, as well as remedies more remote. If the public health is injured—nay, if it is even threatened with only a probable injury, do we not establish quarantines, and interdict commercial intercourse, at immense sacrifices of property, because we will not endanger the life of even one of the King's subjects, by permitting the crew to land, or the cargo to touch the shore, till every ground of apprehension has been removed? If the cholera should appear in any of our towns, notwithstanding every precaution suggested by individual prudence and self preservation, do we not compel certain regulations of cleanliness and police? Do 108 we not arm medical boards with power to impose quarantine, and to guard the public health, at whatever sacrifice of other objects, if the removal of these be necessary to attain their end? What, then, is this but legislative interference with the freedom of intercourse and the freedom of trade? It is as much our duty to maintain the public peace as to save the public health, and, therefore, we have a yeomanry, a militia, a body of watchmen and police. We recognize the propriety of preserving the public morals, by the institution of our courts of law, by the suppression of gambling-houses and brothels, the prevention of prize-fights, and the apprehension and punishment of pick-pockets and thieves; and, in doing all this, we but do our duty. lf, then, drunkenness, be equally injurious to the public health, destructive of the public peace, and dangerous to the public morals of the community—and who will venture to deny that all these effects are produced by it?—why should it not be equally subjected to legislative interference, and checked by legislative control? Drunkenness is in itself a crime, as much so as adultery, or lying, or theft. As such it is denounced by religion, in terms which no man can misunderstand; and the drunkard is especially declared to be unworthy of inheriting the kingdom of God. But, in addition to its being a crime in itself, it is either the parent and source, or the most powerful auxiliary, of almost every other crime that exists. In proof of this assertion, let me adduce the following testimony from the last report of that admirable institution, "The British and Foreign Temperance Society," of which the Bishop of London is the president, and of which many eminent men of all professions are now become members. That report says:The quantity of spirits which pay duty for home consumption in this kingdom has more than doubled within a few past years. According to Parliamentary returns, made in 1833, it amounted to 25,982,494 gallons at proof, which, with the addition of one-sixth for the reduction of strength by retailers, amounted to 13,429,331l. 5s. 10d.; and this sum does not include any part of the many millions of gallons known to be illicitly distilled, or imported without paying duty.Four-fifths of all the crimes in our country have been estimated to be committed under the excitement of liquor. During the year 1833, to less than 29,880 persons were taken into custody by the metropolitan police for drunkenness alone; not including any of the 109 numerous cases in which assaults or more serious offences have been committed under the influence of drinking; and it should be observed, that this statement relates only to the suburbs of London, without any calculation for the thousands of cases which occurred in the city itself.Our parochial expenses, which have been nearly doubled since 1815, are principally occasioned by excessive drinking. Of 143 inmates of a London parish workhouse, 105 have been reduced to that state by intemperance: and the small remainder comprises all the blind, epileptic, and idiotic, as well as all the aged poor, some of whom would also drink to intoxication if opportunity offered.More than one-half of the madness in our country appears to be occasioned by drinking. Of 495 patients admitted in four years into a lunatic asylum at Liverpool, 257 were known to have lost their reason by this vice.The poor's rate and county rate, for England and Wales only, amount to 8,000,000l. The proportion of this expenditure occasioned by drinking may be most safely estimated at two-thirds, say 5,333,333l.; which, added to the cost of spirits, alone 13,429,331l., gives the sum expended by this nation, in the last five years on these two objects only, at 93,813,321l.; amounting, in only twenty years, to three hundred and seventy-five million pounds sterling; without including, any computation for the enormous sums consumed in the abuse of wine and beer, the expenses of prosecutions, the injury done to our foreign trade, the loss of shipping, and the notorious destruction of property in various other ways.Are these evils of sufficient magnitude to demand legislative interference, or are they not? I hear every One instinctively answer yes! and after the recent admission in this House, that the smaller evils of the beer-shop required a legislative remedy, it is impossible that the same assembly can refuse its assent to the proposition, that the greater evil of the ginpalace requires equal correction and cure. It is not, Sir, I am well aware, a very popular topic to quote America as an example in this House; but as the conduct of her legislators in this respect arises in no degree from their republican principles, it may be cited without alarming any political opponent, and will be approved, I think, on all sides,—by the moralist and Christian at least. My chief reason for doing so is, however, to show that a Government can do much, even to improve the public morals, by its judicious interference; and that, too, without the slightest violation of rational liberty, or without risking popular dissatisfaction. Public 110 opinion having been strongly awakened to the evils of intemperance in America, private societies were first formed for preventing, as far as their influence could effect it, the further spread of this evil; and when they had acquired a strength in the country, by the number and respectability of their members, the Legislature voluntarily came forward to second their efforts by their powerful aid. The first step taken by the American government was, to issue the following orders, which are dated from the War department of the Army, on the 2nd of November, 1832.Hereafter no ardent spirits will be issued to the troops of the United States; but sugar, coffee, and rice shall be substituted instead. No ardent spirits will be allowed to be introduced into any port, camp, or garrison of the United States, nor sold by any sutler to the troops, nor will any permit be grunted for the purchase of ardent spirits.About the same period, the Secretary of the Navy was instructed to select one of the ships of war, for the purpose of trying the experiment of abolishing the use of spirits by the seamen; which succeeded so well, and was so soon adopted by the mercantile marine, that, at the present moment, there are no less than 700 American vessels sailing, without a single gallon of ardent spirits on board, and this too, to all parts of the world, amid the icy seas of the arctic and antarctic circles, and in the burning regions of the torrid zone. One of the most striking proofs that could be adduced perhaps, of the acknowledged value of this abandonment of the use or spirituous drinks at sea, is to be found in the fact, that these American vessels find freights, from a public confidence in their greater safety, when English ones cannot obtain them at all: and, but recently, when the eminent house of Baring, Brothers and Company, of London, wrote to their agent in Amsterdam, to know how it was, that freights were not obtainable for their vessels, the reply returned by the agent was, that there were American ships in port, in which the captain, officers, and crew, alike abstained from the use of ardent spirits; and that, till these were all supplied with freights, no English ship would be engaged. Still more recently, and as a consequence, no doubt, of this communication, the same distinguished merchants, have lately launched a noble vessel in the River Thames, destined for the newly opened trade to China, which is to take no ardent spirits for the use of any 111 one on board, except a small quantity in the medicine chest, as arsenic, or laudanum, or any other poisonous drug, to be administered only by the skilful hand of the surgeon; and the public opinion in favour of the wisdom and safety of such a step, is abundantly expressed by the simple fact, that the insurance upon her voyage has been effected at five per cent premium, instead of six paid by vessels taking spirits: and, considering the risks incurred by the possible drunkenness of any of the officers, or men, at sea, and the risk of fires from the same cause, the difference in the premium is fully justified by the diminished danger of the case. Let no one imagine, that discontent among the seamen would be the probable result of such an arrangement. The most experienced of our naval commanders know well, that drinking is the chief cause of all the disobedience and discontent ever manifested at sea. The excellent Captain Brenton, of his Majesty's Navy, who takes so deep an interest in the improvement of the service, has again and again declared, that if ardent spirits were withheld, flogging would never be necessary; and the gallant Captain Ross has proved, by the good health and perfect discipline of his intrepid little band, who were buried amidst the polar snows for many months, without a single drop of ardent spirits, that it is neither necessary to health or contentment: but comparing their own condition with that of other crews, in far less perilous situations, they have good grounds for concluding, that ardent spirits are detrimental to both. Nor is it in the navy only, that the absence of ardent spirits leads to improved discipline, and its use produces insubordination; as the testimony of Mr. Marshall, the Army Physician, whose authority I quoted before, will show. He says:Military discipline, in all its branches, becomes deeply affected by habits of intemperance. To the generally prevailing vice of drinking are to be attributed almost every misdemeanour and crime committed by British soldiers in India. The catalogue of these, unhappily, is not a scanty one; for, by rapid steps, first from petty, and then more serious, neglects and inattentions, slovenliness at, and absence from, parades, follow disobedience of orders, riots and quarrels in barracks, absence from guards and other duties, affrays with the natives, theft, and selling of their own and their comrades' necessaries, robberies, abusive language, and, violence to non-commissioned officers, insolence to officers, and, last of all, desertion, mutiny, and murder may 112 be traced to this source. This frightful picture is not exaggerated. I have seen thirty-two punished men in a regimental hospital at one time. Perhaps not a single individual of that number suffered for a crime which was not a direct or indirect consequence of the immoderate use of spirits. I recollect attending at the punishment of seven men of the same regiment, who received among them 4200 lashes. They had been all tried for crimes arising from habits of intemperance.The Duke of Wellington, in the regimental orders issued to the Grenadier Guards in October of the last year (1833) dwells at large on the fact of increased crime in the Army resulting from increased drunkenness; and attributes all the breaches of discipline and other offences principally to this cause: a fact also which has been tacitly admitted by the Secretary at War, who recently expressed his apprehension at the abolishment of military flogging, because insubordination and crime had latterly increased in the British Army. The cause of that increase was clearly seen by the Duke of Wellington, as arising from increased drunkenness; and the increased drunkenness arose from those increased facilities created by the gin-shops, staring the passenger in the face at every step of his way through almost every part of the great thoroughfares of this metropolis. The example followed by the American Government, of withholding all supplies of spirit rations to the troops, would have at once effected the cure. Passing from the American army, navy, and mercantile marine, we find that the Legislature has not been indifferent to the subject, in the interior towns. In the state of Vermont, an animated debate occurred on the question, whether the corporations of the towns in that state should have the power to grant any licenses at all for the sale of ardent spirits: and the result of the discussion was, a withholding of that right, on the ground that ardent spirits were a deadly poison; a sentiment already quoted from Sir Astley Cooper, who, for that reason, would never permit any to be kept in his house; and that, therefore, the State ought not to sanction, by their license, any traffic in it at all, except as other poisons, under the care of a discreet and prudent dealer in medicines. The state of Ohio soon after imitated this example. In the state of New York the towns have been empowered, by an annual meeting of their inhabitants, to determine by a majority of householders' votes, 113 whether any, and how many, retailers of spirituous liquors, shall be licensed in their respective communities. In the whole county of Plymouth, in the state of Massachusets, where there are 40,000 inhabitants, not a single person is now licensed to sell spirits. In the month of February, 1833, a society was formed, composed entirely of members of the National Congress, and officers of the public service, civil, naval, and military, for the progressive abolition of the use and sale of ardent spirits; so as to give to this object all the weight of the highest Government influence. Their first meeting was held in the Senate Chamber—the honourable William Watkins, one of the members of the Senate, being called to the chair and the honourable Walter Lowrie, the Secretary to the Senate, acting as secretary to the society thus formed. The House of Representatives entered as cordially into this association as the House of Assembly, and the local legislatures of the several states have almost wholly followed their example. The result of all this united power of public opinion, and government authority and example, cordially operating together, has been this: that in America, within the last few years only, more than 2000 persons have voluntarily abandoned the distillation of ardent spirits, and invested their capital in more wholesome and useful pursuits; and upwards of 6,000 persons have abandoned the sale of ardent spirits, and converted their houses and their stock in trade to better purposes.
Sir, these are facts which speak so loudly, that they need no commentator to expound their meaning. They show what the force of public opinion has effected in America, in enlisting the Legislature to engage in the work of moral and social Reform; and they prove how extensively that Reform may be safely and usefully carried, when a people and their rulers cordially co-operate together for the accomplishment of one common end. I ask myself, then, has public opinion yet expressed itself in England, with sufficient power and sufficient intelligence to deserve legislative aid? Let the answer be seen in the following extract from an official Report.The first European Temperance Society was established in 1829, by the exertions of Mr. G. W. Carr, at New Ross, in the South of Ireland, and others were early formed in the north of that island, and in Scotland. Their principles have been spread with much zeal and perseverance, and with most cheering suc- 114 cess, among the manufacturing population of the north of England; Lancashire and Yorkshire alone, where the earliest efforts were made containing above 30,000 members. Above four hundred Temperance Societies and Associations have been formed in England, including the interesting islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Man; the whole comprising, according to the latest returns, more than 80,000 Members. Scotland, under the direction of the vigorous Committee of the Scottish Society, numbers about 400 societies, and 54,000 members. In Ireland, notwithstanding numerous disadvantages and difficulties, about 20,000 persons have joined the standard of Temperance Societies.At the head of the great Metropolitan Society stands the name of the Bishop of London; followed by nine other Prelates of the Established Church, and eight members of the House of Peers. Among the Vice-Presidents of the Society are six Members of the House of Commons, ten Admirals, four Generals, three Physicians, and many more of the clerical, legal, and other liberal professions. At their last anniversary, held only a few days ago, the Bishop of Winchester in the chair, not less than 4,000 persons were present, who manifested the most intense interest in the proceedings. Already have a great number of petitions been laid upon the Table of the House during the present Session only, signed by persons of the highest respectability, praying the House to institute at least an inquiry into the subject: so that by collecting and arranging the evidence on this notoriously prevalent evil, a Committee might be enabled to suggest for mature consideration, and, if approved, for ultimate adoption, such legislative measures as might to them seem best calculated to arrest its future progress, and, if possible, lessen its present amount. Sir, it is for such a Committee that I now ask; in order that the Legislature, by giving its sanction to the inquiry which is proposed as its first step, may strengthen that public opinion which, though already loudly expressed on this subject, will be more than doubled in its force by the approbation of the senatorial voice. In that Committee the various suggestions that may arise can be calmly and patiently discussed. The House acceded to the Motion of the noble Marquess, the member for Buckinghamshire, (Lord Chandos) during the last Session, for an inquiry into the operations of the Beer Bill, with a view to ascertain whether any and what measures could be devised for the better regulation of the Beer-houses in the 115 rural districts; and, upon the evidence so obtained, the hon. member for Kent (Sir Edward Knatchbull) has framed, and passed through a second reading, supported by an immense majority, the Bill for further restricting their privileges, and lessening the amount of the evils they have produced. Will the House then say, that though the sale and consumption of beer among the thinly-scattered population of the agricultural districts is a fit and proper subject for legislative inquiry and legislative restraint, that the sale and consumption of ardent spirits in the thickly-peopled towns is too harmless to be disturbed? This would indeed be "straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel." But of such an absurdity as this I will not believe the House to be capable. The objection that is urged against any legislative interference in such a matter as this I have already partly anticipated and answered, when I have shown, that we interfere, and properly so, to prevent, by legislative measures, the spread of disease, and poverty, and crime; and if we believe drunkenness to be injurious to society as a powerful instrument in producing all these, we are perfectly justified in interfering to stay the progress of its devastating influence. The author of the inquiry, whom I quoted before, has a passage, however, so appropriate to this subject, that I quote it as strengthening greatly the argument in my favour. He says,We are aware, that there are many who may object to this species of monopoly as a restriction on the freedom of trade; some who consider that the occupation of a publican should be as unfettered as that of a shoemaker, or a tailor, and that the man Who has a desire for drink, and the money to pay for it, should have every opportunity of getting drunk, if he has the misfortune to wish it. But let it be recollected, that the very first law of society is, that individuals shall not be permitted to do that, which, although considered beneficial to themselves, may he injurious to the community at large. The Statute-book is full of restrictions founded on this principle. No man can continue to work a factory if it be injurious to the health of those around him. A butcher is not permitted to expose for sale unsound meat. A baker is not permitted to sell unwholesome bread, because it is held criminal to place within the reach of any man that, the use of which is injurious to him. No man is permitted to keep a public gaming-house, because it is considered criminal even to tempt a man to risk his property, or to provide him with the means of squandering the substance of his family. Nor is any one permitted to 116 have indelicate exhibitions, or to use other temptations to vice. Why then should the sale of ardent spirits be unrestricted, when their baleful influence on health and morals is acknowledged? And should it be considered less criminal to tempt a mechanic or a labourer, to squander his wages, and to destroy his morals and his health, by the excessive use of spirits, than to do it by any other means?As it may be expected of me, however, that I should state more specifically some of the few remedies that I should venture to suggest to the Committee when granted (though their adoption would of course depend on their subsequent approval by them for their report, and by the House itself before any enactment could give them the force of law), I will venture to enumerate the principal ones.—1. I should recommend the payment of all wages to be made before ten o'clock in the morning of Saturday, instead of any later period of that day, or even on Friday evening, because the transition from the pay-table to the regular labour of the day, instead of to the entertainment of the evening, would in itself be a powerful lessening of the temptation to drink.—2. That workmen should never be paid at any public-house, or place, where intoxicating drinks of any kind were sold, whether by their employer or any other person—3. To permit no new spirit-shops to be established, or old ones to have their licences renewed, but by the requisition of a considerable number of householders residing within the immediate vicinity of the shop itself, and even then only on large securities for the good conduct of its keeper. 4. To close all those that do exist, the entire day on Sunday, and at an earlier hour than at present on other days; and otherwise so to regulate them as to combine the two objects of giving great openness and publicity to all their proceedings, and of preventing any protracted stay of the visitors on the premises.—5. To make it imperative on the Police, or other officers exercising the duty of guardians or watchmen during the day or night, to apprehend and take to some appointed station for that purpose, all persons found, either in the spirit shops, or in the streets, in a state of intoxication, there to be confined, for a limited period, nor to be released until restored to sobriety. The tendency of all these restrictions would be to lessen the number of spirit shops, and, consequently, the number of spirit drinkers; and these I should consider the most effective of the immediate checks. If there be any who 117 think, that lessening the number and the force of the temptations to crime of any kind will not lessen the amount of crime committed, it would be in vain to hope for their acquiescence in my views; though, to be consistent with themselves, they should remove all the restraints of law and police on robbers, murderers, and incendiaries. It has been well said, that there are effects which in their turn become causes, and this is the case with the increased number of spirit-shops: they are, perhaps, at first, the effects of an increased desire for intoxicating drinks. But they soon become causes of increasing the propensity they seek to gratify. Rival establishments endeavour to outvive each other in the number and strength of their allurements; and thousands are every day seduced into the vortex of drunkenness, who, but for these allurements and temptations, would never have fallen victims to its destructive power; so that every new licence granted by a Government to a retailer of ardent spirits, is in reality a Commission given to that individual by the supreme authority of the State, to use every art and every stratagem to tempt others of his fellow-men to their ruin! And let it not for a moment be supposed that the lessening the number of the spiritshops, or the abatement of the consumption of ardent spirits, would be an invasion of the poor man's rights or comforts, or would abridge his pleasures, or lessen his enjoyments. Not to cite the evidence with which American official documents abound as to the large increase of happiness to the people who had been reclaimed from spiritdrinking, by the diminution of spirit-shops, the cessation of distilleries, and the suspension of the vast machinery of poverty, disease and crime, I content myself with citing a single passage from the well known work of Mr. Colquhoun, in his treatise on the police of London, the last authority I shall quote. That careful and accurate observer of the condition of the people in this metropolis says, at p. 328 of his able work:It is a curious and important fact, that during the period when the distilleries were stopped, in 1796 and 1797, although bread and every necessary of life was considerably higher than during the preceding year, the poor, in that quarter of the town where the chief part reside, were apparently more comfortable, paid their rents more regularly, and were better fed than at any period for some years before, even although they had not the benefit of the extensive charities which were 118 distributed in 1795. This can only be accounted for by their being denied the indulgence of gin, which had become in a great measure inaccessible from its very high price. It may fairly be concluded, that the money formerly spent in this imprudent manner had been applied in the purchase of provisions, and other necessaries, to the amount of some hundred thousand pounds. The effects of their being deprived of this baneful liquor, was also evident in their more orderly conduct, quarrels and assaults were less frequent, and they resorted seldomer to the pawnbrokers' shops; and yet during the chief part of this period, bread was 1s. 3d. the quartern loaf; meat higher than the preceding year, particularly pork, which arose in part from the stoppage of the distilleries, but chiefly from the scarcity of grain.The Chancellor of the Exchequer may, perhaps, feel some apprehension for the revenue at present derived from so prolific a source as the consumption of ardent spirits, and he may fear to arrest the torrent of drunkenness that desolates the land, lest, pecuniary defalcation to the Treasury should result. But, let me calm the anxieties of the noble Lord on that score. I shall neither propose to increase the duty suddenly and greatly, and so encourage smuggling; nor lessen it in the slightest degree, and so encourage consumption; though I should be disposed to recommend a reduction of the duties on malt, on light French wines, on tea, coffee, and other equally wholesome beverages, to substitute for the pernicious poison of spirits in every shape, the imposts on which might be gradually heightened as the duties on the former were progressively decreased. My object would be, first, to prevent any further increase to the number of houses now devoted to this guilty and destructive traffic; next, gradually to reduce the number as well as the strength of the auxiliary temptations with which they now abound; and, lastly, to put those that may remain under such wholesome regulations as shall at least abate, if not wholly extirpate, the disease and crime of which they are the present dens. In addition to such present remedies as may be added, to meet the present evil, I shall be prepared to show, that we might greatly prevent its further spread, by establishing adult as well as infant schools, aided by humble museums, and collections of works of nature and of art; so exciting to rational curiosity, and so powerful in refining the tastes and feelings of the least informed; as well as by instituting instructive and entertaining lectures on popular branches of knowledge, and en- 119 couraging the establishment of parish libraries, and district reading-rooms, provided with cheaper and more innocent refreshments, than the liquid poison now consumed, so as to afford to the labouring population that opportunity of social meeting, and cheap exhilaration, which their daily toils entitle, as well as prepare them, to enjoy; and affording them opportunities for the development of their mental faculties and moral feelings, by that collision of opinion and interchange of sentiment, which, under sober exercise, is a fruitful source of attachment and esteem, but which under the influence of intoxication, degenerate into bitterness and strife. All this, Sir, I feel assured, if the Committee for which I ask be granted, we may do, even for the present generation, who deserve our earliest and most immediate care. And when we have stayed the inundating flood, and prevented it from engulphing in its devouring waves, the strength and virtue of our land; then may we turn to that rising generation whose tender years call loudly for our paternal care, and, providing for them a system of national and universal instruction, teach them that it is their interest to be sober, industrious, and well informed, leaving them, prepared with the elements of knowledge at least, to work out this problem for themselves, and to enjoy its demonstration in their own improved condition and augmented happiness, produced by the national tuition wisely and well applied. From such a state of renovated health in the now diseased portion of society, what wealth might we not anticipate! The Exchequer, instead of being fed on the one hand, as it now is, by a revenue of 4,000,000 or 5,000,000, from the consumption of intoxicating drinks, and drained on the other of 15,000,000l. or 20,000,000l. from our Poor-rates, and hospitals, and gaols, and hulks, and armies and police, would be receiving, from the consumption of more wholesome and nutritious articles, and from the profits of productive industry, now utterly lost and cast away a revenue of 15,000,000l. or 20,000,000l. on the one hand, and on the other be drained of 4,000,000l. or 5,000,000l. only, for the maintenance of an army of schoolmasters; an ordnance department of books and materials of instruction; a war office, to assist the conquests of knowledge over ignorance; dock-yards and arsenals to construct and equip ships for conveying the healthy, and industrious, and enterprising of our unoccupied population to lands, 120 where their superior intelligence and habitual sobriety would make their well-directed labours a source of wealth to themselves and of blessings to others. These, Sir, are but a portion of the advantages, which anticipation shadows forth in the future, if we have but the courage and the virtue to reclaim our unhappy countrymen, from the two debasing influences which now weigh them down—ignorance and demoralization. And if we believe, that that Supreme Being, whose blessings we invoke on every occasion of our assembling in this House, to pursue the solemn duty of legislative improvement, does really hear our prayers, and regard our actions with pleasure or pain, let us be assured that the most acceptable, because the most effective manner in which we can evince our gratitude to Him, for the blessings of health, and instruction, and happiness which we enjoy, is to extend those blessings to the greatest number of our fellow beings, and spread the sunshine of comfort, in which we ourselves are permitted to bask, over those who are now buried in the chilly gloom and deadly darkness of ignorance and intemperance combined. Believing, therefore, that Parliamentary investigation and legislative measures founded thereon, may greatly accelerate the accomplishment of this desirable end, I beg leave, Sir, to move in the words of the original resolutions. "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the causes of the increase of habitual drunkenness among the labouring population of the United Kingdom, and to devise legislative means to prevent the further spread of this great national evil."
Sir George Strickland
rose to second the Motion. He fully agreed with the hon. Member who brought forward the Motion, that nothing could be more desirable than to check as far as possible the vice of drunkenness, though he regretted, that the hon. Member had not mentioned all the remedies for the evil. Neither did he think that the hon. Member had pointed out the means by which the Committee could come to a satisfactory result, and thought, that it was the duty of the House not to appoint Committees unless they were likely to lead to some useful legislation. The hon. Member had referred to the payment of wages; but he must say, that he was not disposed to interfere with the mode of paying labourers' wages at present established throughout the country. This was a subject to which he had paid particular 121 attention, and he knew that in the manufacturing districts there was a great objection to altering the day of payment from Saturday to Friday. Indeed, he did not think it practicable to do this with any good effect. He agreed that gin-shops and the beer-shops should be placed on an equal footing, for he could not see why beer-shops should be closed, and gin-shops be permitted to remain open all night. He also agreed, that it was to the education of the people that they should look as the chief and best means of checking the vice of drunkenness. He was sorry to see this vice so much on the increase. In former times, drunkenness was much more harmless than at present. Although he did not accord in the general views of the hon. Member, still he should support the Motion, because he thought that a Committee would make some useful investigations into the police regulations as regarded public-houses. He should certainly wish to see those houses closed altogether on the Sabbath-day. In this respect, the Committee might be of use, and he should, therefore, give his most hearty concurrence to the appointment of one.
§ Lord Althorp
did not think it necessary to go again into this subject after the various discussions it had already undergone. There could be no doubt that much drunkenness prevailed in the country, and particularly in the metropolis; but he did not think, that it would be desirable to appoint a Committee on the subject, unless there was a prospect of effecting some good through its means. The hen. Gentleman who seconded the Motion, objected to the grounds laid for it by the hon. Member who brought it forward; but he laid other grounds of his own on which he thought the Committee ought to be granted, and these were chiefly, that no public-houses should be open on Sunday, and that no spirits should be sold except where beer was sold. To accomplish these two objects, if the hon. Gentleman thought them so desirable, there was no occasion for a Committee, as it might be much more easily done by a simple Bill. For his own part, he could not see, if people would get drunk, what difference it made whether they got drunk on the Friday or the Saturday; and, as to paying them their wages at an early hour on Saturday in preference to a late hour, he thought the change would be for the worse, as they would have the whole day to get drunk. He had always been of opinion, and was so still, that the best 122 means of lessening the vice of drunkenness as well as all other vices, amongst the people, was to educate them; but he did not believe, that it was possible at all times to prevent persons from getting drunk if they chose to do so. He did not see any beneficial effect that was likely to arise from the Committee for which the hon. Member had moved, and he could not, therefore, support the proposition.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, he had published twelve sermons, one of which was upon the subject of drunkenness. Now, if the noble Lord and the Government were desirous to put an effectual stop to this degrading vice, the best thing they could do would be to purchase one or two million copies of this sermon, and circulate them throughout the country.
§ Mr. Robinson
saw no probability that any new facts would come out before this Committee, if it should be appointed. Why not at once propose some substantive remedy, though he much doubted whether any effectual remedy could be applied? The best way for Gentlemen who wished to put down this vice, would be to embody their ideas in a bill. He was afraid, though of course it would not be avowed, that, on a question of this kind, the consideration of revenue must have some influence on any Government. Seeing no good that could result from it, he would not support the Motion.
§ Mr. Pease
said, the crime of drunkenness was increasing, and extending itself to an amazing extent. ["No !"] He travelled through the country as much as most Gentlemen, and could say, from his own observation, that it was increasing. Regular victualling-houses and beer-shops did not produce so much evil as the dram-shops. The evil arising from the employment of children in factories was trifling when compared to this. He wished the taxes both on dram-shops and on spirits to be increased which he thought would be one of the most effectual means of checking drunkenness.
§ Mr. Hume
admitted, that the evils of drunkenness existed to a considerable extent, but he denied, that, among the better classes, it was on the increase. On the contrary, it decreased among these classes, because they were more abundantly supplied with the means of intellectual gratification. Among the lower classes, undoubtedly, it prevailed, but he doubted if it increased. The remedy proposed was an increase of taxation upon gin. The effect of 123 this would be, as experience proved, to increase smuggling. The noble Lord (Lord Althorp) well knew, that the addition of even sixpence a gallon duty on gin had opened the private stills of Ireland and Scotland. The cheapness of spirits was not the cause of drunkenness. They were cheap in Belgium and France; yet he never saw a drunken man in these countries. There might be such, but he never chanced to meet them. It arose entirely from the state in which the population of this country was allowed to remain. It was vain to think of teaching morality by laws or police. The only remedy for the vice of drunkenness was to raise the intellectual condition of the people by a system of national education, and by a more active and vigilant discharge of duty on the part of the clergy. In place of having non-residents and pluralists, who were roving over the country and over Europe, amusing themselves with arts and with vertu, they ought to be in their parishes, attending to the morals and providing zealously for the spiritual wants of the people. If this were done, drunkenness would not be so prevalent. To this conclusion he came from recollecting what he witnessed in youth in his own country, and which he recollected with gratitude. Was not everything done that could be done by taxation and monopoly to shut out the means of instruction from the people—to withhold from them even a knowledge of the laws they were to be governed by? One had a monopoly of printing Acts of Parliament, realizing thereby a fortune of a million sterling. There was also a monopoly of Bible printing; adding thereby one or two hundred per cent to the price. The people could not enjoy even the pleasure of reading the aphorisms of Poor Richard's Almanack without paying a tax of 1s. 3d. upon a copy. Everything that could be done by fiscal oppression to barbarize the people was done, and yet they expressed surprise at the prevalence of drunkenness. Let the doors be thrown widely open to information. Ignorance was the father of drunkenness as well as of all other vice. The only remedy was education. He hoped the Motion would not be pressed.
Mr. John Maxwell
supported the Motion, because he thought Parliament might do something to check the vice. In some parts of Scotland, and among certain classes of mechanics, this vice, he regretted to say, was on the increase, though certainly not from want of education.
§ Sir Robert Bateson
supported the Motion. He was sorry to say, that drunkenness was on the increase in his part of Ireland. The mechanics consumed their wages in whiskey, and the vice was now extending even to the farmers. This did not arise from poverty, for the wages were good. The hon. member for Middlesex (Mr. Hume) referred to the clergy of Scotland, and the salutary effect of their example and exertions in repressing the vice of drunkenness. He was well acquainted with Scotland; and he would venture to say, that in no one of the three countries, did the vice of drunkenness prevail to so great an extent as it did in Scotland. In his part of Ireland, the religion was the same as in Scotland, the clergy were as pious and as exemplary, and yet drunkenness was on the increase. He presented many petitions on the subject, every one of them having the signature of a clergyman. Nine out of ten of the offences which came before him and his brother Magistrates at Petty Sessions arose out of drunkenness. It could not be attributed to ignorance, for schools had greatly increased in that part of the country; but as the march of education increased, drunkenness increased. He doubted much whether cheap publications did much good; quite the contrary. The evil arose among other circumstances, in a great measure from the facility with which vagabonds who escaped from prison were permitted to set up public-houses. The most effectual remedy. would be to take off the duty on malt, and enable people to obtain a cheap and wholesome beverage. A distinction should be made between beer-shops, and these gin-shops, which were the receptacles of every vice. He would support the Motion.
§ Sir Harry Verney
differed from the hon. member for Middlesex inasmuch, as he thought, contrary to that hon. Member's opinion, that morality might be assisted by judicious legislation. He therefore should support the Motion.
§ Mr. Brotherton
said, drunkenness had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished. It led to a great deal of crime and misery, and in many instances to insanity. He thought it might be useful to allow a Committee to be appointed to inquire as to the extent of the evil complained of, and to see whether any remedies might be found. If any could be found, he for one would be glad to listen to the suggestions of the Committee thereupon.
§ Mr. Baines
was sorry, that the noble 125 Lord (Lord Althorp) was not sufficiently convinced of the magnitude of the evil which the motion might, perhaps, find a means of remedying. For his own part, he considered, that drunkenness was an evil of such great magnitude that it was worthy of making inquiry as to any remedies that could be discovered to prevent its increase. He hoped, that the hon. member for Sheffield would press his Motion to a division, and it should have his support.
Mr. Hughes Hughes
would vote for the Motion of the hon. member for Sheffield. He believed intemperance to have decreased on the part of the rich, and to have increased on the part of the poor. He would occupy the attention of the House only while he alluded to what had passed on the subject of temperance before the Select Committee on the expedition to the Arctic Seas, which, he thought, ought to be now generally known to the From the evidence of Captain Ross, it appeared that, during the last fifteen months of the period that he and his crew were enduring extreme hardships and privations, they were entirely without ardent spirits, melted ice or snow, with the addition of lime juice, being their only beverage; that, to the absence of spirits, he attributed in a great degree the health which the crew latterly enjoyed. Had there been an abundant supply of spirits, and they had been used as freely as, under the circumstances, the sailors would have been disposed to indulge in them, Captain Ross gave it as his opinion, that not only would not the health of the crew have been so good, but he should not have brought back to this country so large a proportion of them.
considered it necessary to inquire as to the ultimate causes which led to the present increase of drunkenness, and for that reason he should support the Motion for going into a Committee of Inquiry on the subject.
said, that one of the worst things about those infernal gin-shops was, that well-dressed women were continually seen issuing out of them. The consequence would be, that future generations would be polluted and contaminated, and the Legislature could not employ too much energy in putting them down. He supported the Motion.
begged the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) to withdraw his opposition to the Motion. When so many Members appeared in favour of the Motion, it would be better if the noble Lord would farego, his own views.
§ Mr. Emerson Tennent
said, the great extent of illicit distillation in Ireland, was alone sufficient to claim the attention of the noble Lord.
§ Mr. Cutlar Fergusson
recommended, that an increased duty on licenses should be resorted to, with a view to discourage the present enormous consumption of spirituous liquors.
§ Mr. Warburton
concurred with his hon. friend (Mr. Hume), that the only effectual mode of preventing drunkenness was by extending to persons of moderate means the same motives for abandoning the practice as influenced those of a higher station. Make drunkenness disgraceful in the eyes of the people—circulate cheap publications against the vice—encourage education, and render it honourable to abstain from habits of intemperance by gradually affecting opinion on the subject;—these were the proper means of putting an end to drunkenness.
§ Mr. Buckingham
could not think of abandoning a Motion founded in public utility, calculated to prevent vice and promote morality; and, therefore, without intending the least disrespect to the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he must press the question to a division.
§ The House divided—Ayes 64 Noes, 47: Majority 17.
§ Committee appointed.
|List of the AYES.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Hoskins, K.|
|Arbuthnot, Hon. Gen.||Hughes, H. H.|
|Baines, E.||Jones, Captain|
|Barnard, E. G.||Knatchbull, Sir E.|
|Bateson, Sir R.||Lister, E. C.|
|Bernard, Hon. W. S.||Marsland, T.|
|Bewes, T.||Martin, J.|
|Blake, M.||Maxwell, J. W.|
|Briggs, R.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Brotherton, J.||O'Brien, C.|
|Browne, J.||Parker, J.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Pease, J.|
|Chaytor, Sir W. S.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Christmas, W.||Potter, R.|
|Copeland, W.||Richards, J.|
|Crompton, S.||Rickford, W.|
|Dykes, F. L. B.||Rotch, B.|
|Evans, Col.||Sharpe, General|
|Ewing, J.||Shawe, R. N.|
|Fergusson, R. C.||Stuart, Lord D. C.|
|Fielden, J.||Talbot, F.|
|Finn, W. F.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Forster, C. S.||Thicknesse, R.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Torrens, Col.|
|Glynne, Sir S. R.||Tracy, C. H.|
|Gronow, Captain||Verney, Sir H.|
|Halcombe, J.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Halford, H.||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Hardy, J.||Williams, Col.|
|Wilmot, Sir J. E.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Harland, W.|